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Fantastic Politico Article Highlights Michelle Obama’s Efforts to Combat Childhood Obesity

By Shivani Chandrashekaran and Ava Runge

The First Lady’s ongoing initiatives to improve children’s nutrition, health, and wellbeing​

As President Barack Obama enters the final stretch of his presidency, the public is shifting its attention toward reflection on his accomplishments over the past eight years. However, some of the most heavily publicized and impactful initiatives during this period have been Michelle Obama’s initiatives targeting childhood obesity and nutrition.

Politico, a popular American political journalism organization that covers U.S. and international policy and political news, recently published an excellent article detailing the First Lady’s “food fight” projects over the past eight years. To create a comprehensive picture of Mrs. Obama’s successful programs, renowned senior food and agriculture reporter Helena Bottermiller Evich and policy reporter Darren Samuelsohn interviewed over sixty sources familiar with Mrs. Obama’s work, including her current and former advisers, members of Congress, food industry and state agriculture leaders, nutrition and obesity experts, and historians.

Michelle Obama’s Eight-Year Food Fight

The article highlights Mrs. Obama’s personal connection to health and nutrition, which started long before her time in the White House. Prior to her career as FLOTUS, Mrs. Obama was a working mother in Chicago juggling her own career and her husband’s with caring for their two daughters. After countless nights of frozen dinners, her children’s doctor alerted her to their rising BMI levels, and the soon-to-be First Lady suddenly became more aware of the importance of nutrition. The Obamas subsequently hired Chef Sam Kass, who accompanied them to the White House and helped advise the family on nutrition. As such, many of Mrs. Obama’s ideas behind these initiatives began early and originated from personal experience. 

According to the Politico article, the First Lady has had tremendous success in promoting health-related policies and getting them passed quickly. One of her first accomplishments in office was the creation of a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. She also established the famous Let’s Move! Campaign, which focuses on nutritional options and physical activity for school-aged children. In addition, Mrs. Obama’s efforts led to the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which called for the first major nutrition update to school meals in decades and enacted strict rules on food sold in vending machines and in school cafeterias. She was also involved in the recent FDA decision to change Nutrition Fact labels to guide serving size and include added sugars. To top it off, Mrs. Obama also created a new eating guide, My Plate, to replace the outdated food pyramid. 

Politico emphasized the backlash and criticism Mrs. Obama faced with each new initiative. She was criticized first for trying to do too many things, then for not trying to do enough; the hashtag #thanksMichelleObama rose up in protest against the new – and less photogenic – food being served in school cafeterias. However, rates of obesity have recently begun to decrease in preschool-aged children in certain cities across the US, and some people believe Mrs. Obama’s initiatives contributed to this change. Regardless of where credit ought to be awarded for decreasing childhood obesity rates, it is great to read of continued efforts to teach American children healthy habits!

[Photo Credit: USDAgov and ChooseMyPlate.gov]

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